Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Disturbed

Yes, I know this post title is a great straight line. It's inspired by I Love Lucy -- the episode where Lucy & Ethel feel they work way too hard as housewives and prepare to go on strike until Ricky and Fred buy them the cool new household appliances of the day. They storm out of the Riccardo kitchen to the living room, where the boys are relaxing. Lucy: We're revolting! Ricky: No more than usual.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled blog post. What's weighing heavily on this Gal's mind this morning?

1) My best friend is incommunicado. He's already been on vacation with his family for a week now, and won't be back for another two days. He's even been gone for his 45th birthday (yesterday). I hope he's having fun, but I miss him. I really miss him. Little problems can grow up to be big problems if he's not available to keep me grounded.

2) It's not me, it's him. The guy who does my hair, that is. I have known him since we were in high school. About a year ago, he told me about a very scary incident with his daughter -- then a college freshman -- and a guy who attempted to drug her drink. I understood completely his terror about this horrible, horrible event, but when he used the "n" word to describe the young man in question, I stopped him. "He didn't try to do your daughter because he's black. You know that, right?" Yeah, yeah. I reiterated, "I don't accept that language in my presence, you know." Shrug. Over the past year, he has kept me waiting for my appointments. He simply overbooks his Saturdays. I don't like it, but when he apologizes I say, "You were closer to losing me with the n-word than with this." Saturday, when I was getting my haircut, he was going on and on about the landlord who will be renting a campus apartment to his daughter and three friends this fall. In the story, he mentioned the landlord's name was "Rosen." I tried to believe he wasn't going there. But then, just to make sure I understood, he said he was having his lawyer review the lease since "the landlord's a Jew and all." I literally hit him with the Newsweek in my lap. (Lucky for him I wasn't reading the latest edition of the Oprah magazine or he'd need a sling.) I told him again that I don't accept that kind of talk in my presence. Actually, what I said was, "I don't come here to listen to anti-Semitic shit." Instead of apologizing, he said, annoyed, "Will you let it go?" Then he kept trying to change the subject. He seems to think this "banter" between us is "fun." On the way out he kissed my cheek and said he'd see me next month.

Yes, he will. But should he? He does a good job on my hair and he's very affordable. I have known him for 35 years. My parents know his parents. He's the only one my nephew will allow to do his hair. He even made a point of watching my niece's graduation on the local cable access channel.

And he's a bigot. An unapologetic bigot. If a service provider like my dry cleaner spoke that way, I'd take my business elsewhere. This situation bothers me a great deal. I want to do the right thing, but I don't know what the right thing is.

3) But this doesn't bother me much at all. My oldest friend's oldest boy is scheduled to be released from a mental hospital tomorrow. The doctors have changed his meds and, after almost a week of surveillance, seem to feel he will no longer be a danger to himself or others.

I know very little about the specific incident that triggered this hospitalization, but I do know he's been admitted twice before and, once released, refuses ongoing outpatient treatment. My friend won't insist on it because, well, he's her son and she can't just throw him out in the street.

We have been through this when he insisted on dropping out of school, and then, left without the structure of classes, fell into a haze of cigarette and pot smoke, only emerging from his bedroom to punch holes in the doors and walls. Then, when he got down to less than 100 lbs. (he's nearly 6' tall), he was hospitalized for depression and anorexia, but upon his release decreed the outpatient therapies "stupid" and refused to go. Most recently, when he hit his sister and beat up his car, he admitted himself but didn't like being around really crazy people and left the moment he was legally able. Now that he's 21, he can pretty much do what he wants to. And all he wants to do is sit in his room, strum is guitar, chainsmoke cigarettes (dangerous with his chronic asthma), smoke pot, and refuse food. (I thought pot made you hungry. Oh, well ...)

I have known this boy his entire life and yet when it comes to this news I feel ... nothing. I appreciate how an ugly divorce and bad parenting shaped him and I am sorry about that. I realize the turmoil he is causing for his mother (my friend) and his kid sister (a troubled girl unduly influenced by his bad behavior). But I feel bad for my friend and her daughter, not for him.

And I feel bad about feeling nothing for him.

Is it any wonder I want to retreat into the sitcom world?


  1. Life is really full of angst at times. Your hairdresser: I just had this same discussion with colleagues today about the use of the N word. It is totally unacceptable to me. I can see how you might feel uncomfortable in his presence, especially given you've afforded him several chances to tone it down in your presence. Hmmm.....I might have to go elsewhere.

    The boy: Sad for all of them. So sad.

    Your best friend: I've seen this type of post from you before. He ALWAYS comes around sooner or later. But really, I find it hard to imagine that you need anyone to keep you grounded. I come here often for common sense talk from the one and only Gal myself! He should be so lucky.

  2. It's hard to break up with a hairdresser. I feel guilty when I've had someone else do my hair over the past twenty years that I've gone to my hair magician. But a bigot... I think I'd have to find a new hairdresser.

  3. I get how you feel about the boy, ie. feeling worse for his mother. My husband's second oldest boy went through horrible tragedy as a child. Then in his mid teens turned to drugs, alcohol, and crime. He's in his 30s and the behaviour persists. I feel nothing for him.
    On a more upbeat note though, I have to say, I love your profile pic!

  4. It is impossible to balance bigotry with friendship. Even harder when it is family. I have distanced myself from those situations in the past. I just couldn't overlook it. It made me angry, uncomfortable and sad.

  5. Thanks, Ladies! I appreciate your input. I have decided to tell Tony (my hairdresser) that he was one more chance but then 3 strikes, you're out. And I appreciate knowing that no one thinks I'm horrible for being more than a little dead inside when it comes to my friend's son.

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  7. Okay, I tried to go on and keep my mouth closed, but I'm Southern, I could not do it. On your first thing, don't worry, I know how flippant that sounds, but you will be okay. 2. Just let me offer this: Agreed, he's a bigot and that's wrong. And when (if) you leave, he no longer has to deal with the discomfort of not getting to be one at least around you. He will only have to associate with his like-minded people. You have known him for so many years, and all that family history. Maybe the right thing is having the strength, personally and of character, to continue showing a life-long friend that he's wrong on this. And making him deal with it. 3. It is sad about the boy. I have a very intimate appreciation of similar circumstances. Two things I will offer. I noticed in another of your posts you are weaning yourself off the Lexapro. You are dealing with your situation. He is not. He's trying to make it everyone else's problem. Those opposite ways of dealing with "it," I imagine, could easily encourage a certain lack of empathy on your part. It certainly does not surprise me. Second, if he were a rabid dog, you the animal lover would regret such a condition for the animal. You might even know the situation that resulted in him not getting the vaccinations, so he later got the rabies. You may love the dog. But that does not change anything. Rabid, he's still a threat and a danger. You would not just let him bite you, or anyone you cared about.

    Just thoughts I'm sharing. I never claim to know the answer. Ultimately, we all have to do the right thing that is the right one for oneself in the situation, not what was right for anyone else.

    (Sorry, I deleted the comment. After sending it, I realized I was still logged in as those dang Cats!)